Health & Safety
Mandating vaccinations will likely require proof that vaccines are required for safety
By Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With both the federal and provincial governments announcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for various groups of public employees, so too have many in the private sector.
Several businesses and corporations have revealed in recent days their plans to put vaccine mandates in place as Ontario and the rest of the country moves to the start of a new school year in September and many employees are also returning back to work after summer vacations.
Although the majority of Canadians and a majority of Sudbury, Ont., residents have opted for vaccines, there are still large numbers of individuals who have not taken the jab.
Experts have said while many companies are moving in the direction of mandatory vaccines, it is not as simple as getting the shot or else.
Peninsula Canada, a well-known human resources firm, specializing in health and safety issues, said there is much to be considered.
Andrew Caldwell, an HR Advisory Team Lead at Peninsula, told Sudbury.com that many companies in Canada are taking cues from the federal and provincial governments.
“Now that the government has taken that step to mandate vaccine policies for certain workplaces, this has set the trend for private companies to follow suit,” said Caldwell.
“People want to get back to some level of normality, and many employers will be keen to have a fully vaccinated workforce in order to protect their staff and customers.”
He added that the reasons for the mandate must be validated.
“However, it’s one of those things where you have to validate the mandate if it’s not required by law and demonstrate why it would be a requirement for the job,” he added.
Caldwell said this means explaining why the vaccination is specifically necessary in any given work setting while at the same time respecting workers’ rights.
“If the company wants to go forward with a mandatory vaccination policy the employer would have to demonstrate that the job cannot be done remotely and does not allow for social distancing. If the work can be done remotely, then it would be harder to justify such a mandate. There has to be a business reason for requiring this of staff if the government hasn’t mandated this for all its citizens,” Caldwell said.
In the past week or so, dozens of private companies have announced intentions for mandatory vaccines, for both employees and clients.
In Toronto, Porter Airlines announced it would require employees to be fully vaccinated or to present negative COVID-19 tests within 72 hours of starting their shift.
The airline, which serves Northern Ontario, said it supports the government’s plan to require full vaccination for air travellers.
Company president and CEO Michael Deluce said Porter is waiting for specific guidance from the federal government and will follow those guidelines.
Even the Toronto Blue Jays said anyone wanting to see a game at the Rogers Centre will have to provide proof of vaccination starting on Sept. 13. Either that or a recent negative COVID-19 test. This will apply to fans aged 12 and older.
The OHL has also announced that fans 12 and older who wish to take in a game must provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. All OHL community members must also be vaccinated.
SEIU Healthcare, a well-known hospital union, is also in support of mandatory vaccines.
“Today, we’re reaffirming our position communicated in recent interviews in support of mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare union president.
Stewart said that in a recent survey, most SEIU union members showed support for mandatory vaccinations as a matter of workplace safety.
“They told us that vaccinations mean knowing you’re protected and knowing that the person you’re working shoulder to shoulder with is protecting you. COVID-19 is a killer. The Delta variant is even more deadly. No senior should die because of this virus and not one more healthcare worker should lose their life simply because they went to work,” said Stewart.
Toronto’s University Health Network recently announced that workers who refuse to get vaccinated will be terminated after two weeks of unpaid leave starting October 8. But Caldwell said it is not as simple as it sounds.
“These employers might still have a hard time proving these terminations to be “with cause” and will most likely have to terminate employees “without cause” and provide the correct amount of notice,” he said.
So what happens if employees do not want the vaccination?
“The employer would have to justify the rationale for forcing this private information from the employee,” said Caldwell.
“Workers do not have to disclose their vaccination status, unless this is required by law. If they refuse, the employer should then treat them like they would an unvaccinated employee. Employers can then ask the worker to get tested, to continue to follow social distancing rules and to wear a mask at work.”
Even though employers are required by law to provide a safe workplace, Caldwell said this does not necessarily mean all employees can be mandated to get immunized.
“A good chunk of Peninsula’s clients want to implement vaccination policies but there are some that are saying they’re not going to and the government can’t make them,” Caldwell said. “Ultimately, this decision is up to the employer until the government mandates this, but we are definitely seeing a trend. Vaccines are not mandatory across Canada, even though employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace. Employers can still ensure a safe workplace without forcing the vaccine by continuing to enforce other safety measures.”
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